word craft


Advice and criticism always help

Dur­ing this past sum­mer, I invit­ed a num­ber of very accom­plished writ­ers to share a book about writ­ing that they have found par­tic­u­lar­ly mean­ing­ful and use­ful. It has fas­ci­nat­ed me that with two excep­tions (Forster’s Aspects of the Nov­el and Goldberg’s Writ­ing Down the Bones) dif­fer­ent books have been cit­ed. (The 14 arti­cles in the 2023 Sum­mer Blog Series begin here.)

I sus­pect we all know there is no one way to write, and that every writer needs to find her/his way to work and cre­ate sto­ries. This list of rec­om­mend­ed titles by fine writ­ers proves that. 

Yes, it would be most instruc­tive to go through all these books and see what they have in com­mon. It would be a huge, time-con­sum­ing task, which, I has­ten to say, I have no inten­tion of doing. Be my guest. 

There is, more­over, that old cliché, “The proof of the pud­ding is in the eat­ing.” This has been defined as “the real val­ue of some­thing can be judged only from prac­ti­cal expe­ri­ence or results and not from appear­ance or theory.” 

So for all you writ­ers (and readers)—including myself—may I sug­gest, if your writ­ing works, it works. But—my expe­ri­ence is that advice and crit­i­cism always help. 

Here are the books cited. 

Aspects of the Nov­el. E.M. Forster 

Becom­ing a Writer. Dorothea Brande 

Bird by Bird. Anne Lamott

Land of the Dead. Bri­an McDon­ald and Toby Cypress 

Save the Cat Writes a Nov­el. Jes­si­ca Brody

The Secrets of Sto­ry. Matt Bird 

The Sound on the Page. Ben Yagoda 

Sto­ry. Robert McKee 

A Swim in the Pond in the Rain. George Saunders

The Writer’s Jour­ney: Myth­ic Struc­ture for Writ­ers. Christo­pher Vogler

Writ­ing Down the Bones. Natal­ie Gold­berg (2)

Writ­ing Fic­tion. Janet Bur­roway and Eliz­a­beth Stucky-French 

Writ­ing for Sto­ry. Jon Franklin 

Writ­ing with Pic­tures. Uri Shulevitz

(Click on a cov­er to read the arti­cle by the author who chose that book.)

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